I spoke with Bishop MacPherson yesterday, and what Bishop Howe wrote is correct. Moreover, it was Bishop MacPherson who arranged the meeting with the Presiding Bishop. One important point of clarification is that, despite George Conger’s headline that the Presiding Bishop “backs” this plan, the bishops went to meet with the PB not to seek her permission, but to tell her what they were doing, that this did not violate the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church, and that they were going to be perfectly transparent with what this new association will be about and what it will do.
In short, the group has taken the Episcopal visitor plan and melded the same with alternative primatial pastoral oversight for the Episcopal visitors, which addresses the pastoral needs of conservative bishops. The Presiding Bishop has three roles – CEO of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society (the corporate arm of the church but which is not the church), presiding officer over the House of Bishops (she runs the meeting), and chief pastor, which includes being a pastor to the Bishops, much as a bishop is the pastor to the clergy in their Diocese. The Anglican Communion partner bishops are not seeking to undermine the PB’s role as the duly elected PB for the first two functions, but the third, pastoral oversight, is relational and therefore requires an alternative arrangement.
Unfortunately, while this move may help conservative bishops in conservative Dioceses hold on until (and if!) the covenant is created, this is not some big overall solution folks have been hoping for. Frankly, nothing so far has been that. Will something like that ever come? Maybe, maybe not.